Monday, 20 September 2021

Your letters...

Festival move is brilliant

Festival move is brilliant

Sir, — I have no more authority to write on this subject than your previous correspondents, other than those who work for the Henley Festival.

However, I am so puzzled by the vehement opposition to the festival’s move, so I want to respond to the doom merchants.

First, are these protesters all people who buy tickets regularly? I do hope so. Have they any understanding of the problems involved in putting on an event on someone else’s layout with the imposition of their rules and regulations?

As an event organiser of rather too many years’ experience, I can assure the protesters that if they wanted to hold a party or a fund-raising event they would want to start with a clean sheet on which to design it. They would not want to be lumbered with having to put a restaurant on a grandstand or be forced to use suppliers not of their choosing.

No one would design a music festival in a long straight line. It must have seemed a brilliant idea, a long time ago, to use the vacated regatta tents.

They should have been available for very little outlay. From what I can gather, in recent years the festival has been paying for the regatta’s tents!

No experienced event organiser would choose to have to set up something as big as the Henley Festival in just two-and-a-half days. It became complete nonsense.

There is, of course, huge room for alteration and improvement in the festival: all such events need to evolve. Personally, I hope they will go more Glyndebourne, more relaxed but still elegant.

Let people bring in picnics (they were not allowed to on the regatta site), do away with the huge, expensive restaurant tent in which you could not hear conversation and might be anywhere other than on the banks of the river... use both banks of that river, embrace the boats, put on some Gilbert and Sullivan, showcase exciting emergent British talent... don’t waste money on strange foreign acts. There is so much scope for renewal and rebirth on the new site.

I wonder what percentage of ticket-buyers did actually walk to the festival from home? Naturally, there will be transport from and to the station and great incentive to arrive by boat.

I think it is a brilliant coup and eagerly await next year’s festival. — Yours faithfully,

Judy McAlpine

Fawley Hill

Excited by the challenge

Sir, — Like many people, we were saddened to learn about the Henley Festival moving location because we and friends have had great times at the regatta site, a near-perfect experience every time.

But the decision has been made so let’s support it please.

The pressure of running live events on this scale, both creatively and financially, is enormous and a huge responsibility.

Stewart Collins, the artistic director, and his team have delivered magnificently over the years, let’s not forget that, and given his comments about what he wants to create at the new site he has got a lot to live up to.

But that’s a great creative challenge and one we’re sure he and his festival colleagues will relish.

They’re bright enough to know that if they don’t get the first one at Greenlands right then recovery will perhaps be impossible, even with BMW sponsorship.

So come on everybody, let’s get behind them, lift their spirits and motivate them as much as possible.

We’re sure they can deliver something really special that we can all be proud of happening in our area. Hey, we’re excited already! — Yours faithfully,

Richard and Anna Cuthbertson


Corporate, not intimate

Sir, — Much has been said on the topic of the Henley Festival but I feel compelled to write.

We have been going to festival for the last 15 years or so. We have always had the most fabulous time there and also attended the free art event on the Saturday morning with the children.

The festival has changed so much over the years and we noticed that this year in particular there were fewer art events, less roving eccentrics. My guess is that the money had been allocated to the nightclub which, while fun, is not in keeping with the festival.

The whole festival has become more commercialised and corporate. I can only imagine that a lot of the grandstand seats on the Thursday night were allocated to corporate personnel as the noise of people talking while Jamie Cullum and his band played was so rude. Even the band members looked up at the grandstand in disbelief.

The regatta site has been so perfect for the festival. It is easy to get to, in walking distance of the town, and the backdrop of Henley and the boats on the river are magical. With attendees of the festival dressed in their finery, it takes me back to another era.

The intimate nature of the festival and its performers is an important aspect too.

The site moving next year will be a disaster for the festival. Rumour has it that Grace Jones and the Human League have been approached surely acts more suited to the Rewind Festival.

The Henley Festival is trying to become too big and has lost its way. I can only hope that a new company will take on the regatta site and continue with a breakaway festival — it will surely be well attended, judging by the strength of feeling about the new site. — Yours faithfully,

L Beales

Rotherfield Peppard

Change for the worse

Sir, — When I read that the Henley Festival was a great success, even though it had failed to sell all its tickets and had lost £50,000 (Standard, July 19), my first thought was I am not sure how that equates with success and wondered whether the organisers had considered that their programme might be one reason.

I for one have not been to the festival for the last few years because the programme has not contained anything of interest to me and I found the event far too corporate.

I then read on and found that the artistic director had agreed to listen to local views and would change the programme for next year. He is also clearly aware of the concerns of many about the change of venue.

As a scientist, I know that you should never change more than one parameter at a time if you want to achieve meaningful results.

Alas, next year we learn that both venue and programme are to be changed, so now we will never know the major factor for this year’s loss.

I await the publication of next year’s programme to find out whether I will be able to support it or not. — Yours faithfully,

Vivian J Emerson

Makins Road, Henley

Stay where you are

Sir, — With great sadness, we watched and listened to the last Henley Festival to be held in Henley.

The weather was superb and the many boaters added to the festival mood, which cannot be recreated down at the new site at Greenlands.

Many, many people have said that the festival should remain exactly where it is and if a referendum was held the festival organisers would be shocked to realise how many people are against the move.

Not one person I have spoken to is for the change and we deal with many boaters and festival attenders. Surely the loud boos on the Wednesday night would have been a big hint!

On behalf of many, I say that a rethink is in order. We want to keep our HENLEY festival and not have a Greenlands festival. — Yours faithfully,

Pat Ryan-Bell


Grandstand tickets sold

Sir With reference to Paul Winslow’s letter headlined “Where did all tickets go?” (Standard, July 26), I tried to obtain an extra ticket on the Saturday for that evening’s performance.

However, I was told that tickets had been sold out for weeks and all they could offer was a promenade ticket. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Welfare

Binfield Heath

Great value entertainment

Sir, — When so much that you read on this letters page is negative, what a pleasure it was to be able to enjoy the Henley Fringe.

Unfortunately, for personal reasons, we were able to attend only three events but what fantastic events and what fantastic value they were.

On the Monday at the Three Tuns, Women on the Edge entertained brilliantly. Even if some of the political points made would not have been popular in South Oxfordshire, the entertainment value was brilliant.

On the Thursday at the town hall chambers, Mr Pickwick was a vibrant and quirky take on the Dickens classic and on Saturday evening our own Naomi Valance (and the Naomiets) rocked us in the aisles at Lovibonds — in my opinion the star turn of the whole summer!

All this for a grand total of £42 for two of us.

A great week, great entertainment and great value.

Bravo to the fringe organisers, all the artists and, of course, all the amazing hosts, who make the whole thing possible. Not a bad place to live is it? — Yours faithfully,

Chris Tampsett and Aising Craik

Milton Close, Henley

Message for comedians

Sir, — I wonder if this letter could be sent as a set of guidelines to all comedians coming to Henley to perform at the Fringe or anywhere else:

1. Do some research. Read the Henley Standard before you come, or even get a copy when you get off the train.

2. Understand who we are!

3. Better yet, understand what we’re not. That means your ideas that we are a buttoned-up, morally outraged throwback to Edwardian gentility are simply wrong.

4. If that’s what we were we wouldn’t be at your gig; think about it.

5. Henley people understand London; we work there, or have worked there, or depend upon it. Do us the same courtesy — you see we’re only London at the end of a railway line.

6. Better still, understand that there is actually a whole world beyond London —unlike the comedienne a couple of years ago who thought Henley was a part of London because of the “on-Thames” suffix. Actually, we laughed at that...

7. If we’re not laughing the fault probably lies at your feet rather than ours. We’re pretty smart and clued in around here; if it’s funny we’ll get it. So if we’re not laughing, I repeat, it’s almost certainly not funny. Go back and rework it.

8. Those comedians who trade on making outrageous statements in the name of “honesty” may fool the gullible but not us. To us, it sounds more like Tourette’s Syndrome. We didn’t laugh when one comic this year stated boldly: “Paedophiles are not bad people!” That’s not funny, nor is it suitable for a comic forum; save it for Question Time where it can get a considered answer. If you want to educate us find a classroom.

I am sure others will have guidelines to add to this and perhaps the Fringe might adopt them and send them out to the agencies so that their acts may be forewarned. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Rowbottom

Stoke Row

Please do up our precinct

Sir, — Over the years, I have highlighted how little the Labour Party actually cares about Caversham.

They like to take Caversham residents’ council tax money but they don’t like spending that income in the village.

Whether it’s the lack of funding for the pavilion in Mapledurham, the lack of proper primary school provision, not paying for our flower beds, only filling in potholes when shamed into doing so, or the disgraceful closure of Arthur Clark care home, the evidence is all there — Labour likes taking Caversham residents’ money and spending it elsewhere.

Even Labour’s own Caversham councillor supported the closure of the care home, which is truly shameful. How is that representing your residents?

There is good news, however. The businesses, residents, voluntary groups, environmentalists and churches in Caversham do care and have demonstrated this by putting their hands in their pockets to run events, put in planting, improve our environment and even look to develop a Caversham loyalty card to support our local businesses. All great work, delivered by Caversham folk who support their community.

I would like to put out a further challenge to the owners of St Martin’s precinct in the centre of Caversham.

In the past, they have shown goodwill, putting in new bins and planting new trees, flattening the walking surfaces, all things that I have publicly applauded.

But now Caversham centre needs much more investment. The precinct is tired, old and in dire need of investment.

Now we know that Labour won’t do it, so it is now over to the owners of the precinct. They have benefited over decades from Caversham folk spending money in the precinct’s shops, money that goes to pay the rent from the businesses.

The precinct is now almost as old as me, which is half a century plus. It’s time to improve the centre of Caversham, enhancing the village, investing to improve.

I have applauded the owners of the precinct for the improvements that they have made over the years but would now respectfully ask that they show their full commitment to Caversham and renew the St Martin’s precinct. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Andrew Cumpsty

Conservative councillor for Caversham, Reading Borough Council

Appalling treatment

Sir, — I’m appalled at the way Sky handled the internet outage in Henley last week.

Anyone calling from a “registered” phone was immediately put through to a recorded message that they were “working on it” and it would be “back in four hours”.

They ran this over three-and-a-half days. By putting in a lot of random numbers on your mobile you finally got through to a “TV customer services” person who admitted they knew nothing and were as brassed off as we were.

For a town that has a lot of start-up companies and people working from home for their companies this is totally unacceptable.

I expect Sky to both apologise and contribute to the Deputy Mayor’s charity fund as a gesture of contrition. I will keep the Standard updated on the company’s response. — Yours faithfully,

Martin Akehurst

Deputy Mayor, Two Tree Hill, Henley

Helpful town hall staff

Sir, — With reference to Henley town clerk Mike Kennedy’s letter headlined “Staff quick in berry case” (Standard, July 26), may I present a case in support of the town council.

I have lived in Henley since 1969 but have only been involved with the council and its staff for the last five years.

In that time I have found them to be cheerful, willing, well informed and, of perhaps the greatest importance, always willing to help. Let me give you an example.

On regatta Saturday, the council gave permission for a Henley Partnership group called sport and recreation to set up a gazebo in the market square to illustrate the merits of those clubs and groups that exist in Henley.

This was organised very efficiently through Louise Hastings at the council. Regrettably, I had not realised that one in our group would require electricity, so what to do?

Fortunately, the information desk at the town hall was open and we tried every key we could find but to no avail.

The lady then telephoned Cliff Austin (sergeant at arms), who was at the regatta, but could not get an answer. She then telephoned the traffic warden who found Cliff, discovered where the key was, walked to the town hall, got the key and helped connect us to the electricity supply.

So here was help, if you like customer service, to an extraordinary level from members of staff some of whom were not even working.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank everyone for their efforts on that day but I would add that this behaviour is symptomatic of the levels of help I have always received from within the council and, however they do it, they are to be congratulated. Long may it continue. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Baker

Laud’s Close, Henley

Mistaken identity...

Sir, — I wish to make it clear that I have not written to you about laurel berries.

The letter (Standard, July 12) was signed A M Hawkins whereas I always sign my letters to you as Andrew Hawkins.

As I am both a tree warden and a member of the Henley in Bloom committee, it is disappointing that the town clerk Mike Kennedy should think I had written about the matter in the terms expressed.

Please will you make it absolutely clear to your readers that I did not write the letter signed A M Hawkins. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

...sorry, that was my fault

Sir, — In my letter (Standard July 26), I incorrectly attributed my reply to Andrew Hawkins, not A M Hawkins, the author of the original letter who wrote concerning the town council’s response to a child who digested a berry from foliage in Market Place.

Please allow me through your newspaper to apologise unreservedly to Andrew for offending him and for the distress caused as a result of my injudicious remarks that were wrongly directed at him.

Andrew Hawkins is the chairman of the Henley Allotments Association and works assiduously alongside members of the town council and other volunteers on the Henley in Bloom committee while also supporting the work of Henley in Transition.

A highly embarrassing case of mistaken identity on my part and a lesson for everyone — check first before committing pen to paper!

I should have known better than to credit Andrew Hawkins with the unhelpful comments of A M Hawkins, Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Kennedy

Town clerk, Henley Town Council

Ball profits overestimate

Sir, — In the interview with your reporter that led to the report on our annual cricket club summer ball (Standard, July 26), I’m afraid that I misled him and also failed to include a couple of very important thanks.

Sadly, my initial cast of the post-ball figures somewhat overstated the profit made (maths was never one of my stronger subjects — ask any of my golf partners) but a very substantial contribution was made towards our loan repayment fund once the final figures were in.

This was the eighth year that we have held our summer ball on the regatta site and it would not have been possible without the very kind permission of the Henley Royal Regatta management for which we are extremely grateful.

Thanks, too, to Arena Structures who allow us to use the marquee that becomes our ballroom.

This support has been crucial in our efforts to raise funds to buy our beautiful ground, a ground that will be to the benefit of the town in perpetuity and so, somewhat belatedly, thank you both. — Yours faithfully,

David E Winter

Fund-raising and sponsorship chairman, Henley Cricket Club

Disappointingpub visit

Sir, — After reading letters in the Standard praising the Crown at Nuffield, I was encouraged to take my daughter and baby granddaughter there on a Monday lunchtime during my weekly visit to Nettlebed.

We were very disappointed to realise after parking and unloading the baby and buggy that the pub was closed, despite blackboards by the road advertising the beer garden.

The last letter I read from Elizabeth Nutter (Standard, July 19) said the current tenants had a limited time to “make a go of it” so I was surprised to find the Crown closed at lunchtime on a warm, sunny day when people want to sit outside and enjoy a nice pub lunch.

Closing for a whole day is not the way to succeed and gain regular clientele. I do not feel like making a return visit. — Yours faithfully,

Sue Willson

(Former Brakspear landlady), Alton, Hampshire

Everyone for tennis

Sir, — As a tennis club captain, may I say how much I agree with Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth on the need to encourage “children from less fortunate backgrounds” to take up this wonderful game.

“Tennis is a sport too long associated with the middle class,” he wrote in an excellent letters page (Standard, July 12).

Let us welcome in the shunned upper class (preferably Scottish) this very instant! — Yours faithfully,

Chris Tate

Binfield Heath

Meadows are not a toilet!

Sir, — I am writing to inform you that on Tuesday afternoon last week, while my daughter was in Marsh Meadows accompanied by peers, the activities of a young boy in a family group was brought to her attention.

The boy of about eight years old was crouching down in the nature reserve defecating, which he then left in a bag on the floor.

The boy was accompanied by his family who were clearly aware of his actions and did not take him to one of the nearby public toilets.

The group of about 10 had been residing down the riverside for most of the afternoon as they had used barbecues which left scorch marks on the grass.

I feel some action should be put in place to stop such large groups using these wildlife reserves as a public toilet.

When I spoke to the town council, the response was that it would be difficult to enforce any type of action, even though there are signs stating that barbecues are not allowed. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Swans don’t fear geese

Sir, — I can assure your correspondent David Parry that swans are not phased by the Canada geese (Standard, July 26). On the contrary, they ruthlessly guard their territory and should the geese nest near them, when the newly hatched goslings take their first trip on the river, that is their last.

We always say that the swans work for the Environment Agency!

I suggest the disappearance of the swans is more due to humans eating them — into the same stomachs as the beautiful large carp that used to sunbathe just beneath the surface of the water on hot days until a couple of years ago. — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light

Wargrave Road, Henley

How to avoid traffic chaos

Sir, — I noted the article reporting that remedial work is to be carried out to the up lane of the dual carriageway at Bix, necessitating major diversions (Standard, July 26).

Highways officials have indicated they are going to reduce the down lane to a single carriageway to help cut drivers’ speeds.

So why not simply use the other half of that carriageway as the up lane for traffic? This would surely be much more sensible than causing traffic chaos around South Oxfordshire.

The Bix bypass is, after all, the only length of dual carriageway of any substance between Henley and Oxford, so having vehicles running in opposite directions sharing a carriageway would be no different to the rest of the journey. — Yours faithfully,

Mark P Hatt

Not up to standard...

Sir, — Thanks very much for the piece about the closure of Bix Hill for essential repairs.

It was highly informative, with lots of useful insight into why the repairs had to be done, where the diversions might be etc but just the teensiest, weensiest piece of information was sadly lacking — when?!

If that has yet to be decided, then the article should have said so. On the other hand, if a date has been arranged for the work to start, how about letting us readers in on it? — Yours faithfully,

Clive Vernon

Hurdlers Green, Watlington

The editor responds: “My apologies to Mr Vernon and other readers. The work will take two weeks and was due to begin on Monday but will now start on August 19.”

Condiment nonsense

Sir, — With reference to Jeremy Paxman’s request for exploding condiment stories (Standard, July 19), I recall a bomb scare at a Celine Dijon concert.

It appears that bangers were found in the mustard and had been planted by two balsamic activists. The police were certainly worth their salt, as they managed to ketchup with the two Daddies at sauce in a flat in Piccalilli.

After a grilling, the bombers admitted buying the explosives on HP from Curry’s. Now realising they were in a pickle and did not relish doing thyme, they submitted a full apology to Miss Dijon, which was presented to her in her French dressing room.

She took it all with a pinch of salt and a great sense of humous. — Yours faithfully,

Heinz Hellmann


(alias the Gardeners)

Lighten up, you chaps

Sir, — At last, a man in the Henley area who has a sense of humour! Thank you, Rob Heginbotham (Standard, July 26), I was beginning to think all the men around here have had theirs removed.

Dan Robinson’s reporting of the incident had undertones of the Goon Show and exploding rhubarb chutney is certainly a recipe we would have found in Bluebottle’s cook book!

A unique incident, thankfully not serious, was reported as a bit of summer fun — meant to put a smile on people’s faces.

Follow Rob’s example and lighten up, chaps! — Yours faithfully,

Margaret Goodwin

Homelands Way, Henley

Wonderful help from Pc

Sir, — I would like to say a big thank-you to two wonderful people.

I lost/had pinched my wife’s Dunhill Londinium silver watch and bracelet on Monday.

Thanks to a really nice and helpful (attractive) lady police officer for coming to see me on Tuesday lunchtime, “when the station was closed”, I managed to recover the watch and bracelet.

Please can I thank the officer for her wonderful help, out of hours, and also, whoever most kindly handed in the watch and bracelet to the police station. — Yours faithfully,

Jonathan Mason


Streets like in a Third World country

Sir, — I was horrified at the state of the pavements in our town centre after Henley Royal Regatta and felt sure that something would be done about it before the Henley Festival but, no, they were still a disgrace.

This picture was taken on Wednesday morning last week in the main square but it was equally as bad outside the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street, where there were pools of dried sick.

It looked like a Third World country — is this really the impression we want to give to our visitors?

Needless to say, it is equally as unpleasant for the residents of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Victoria Page


Nimby, the dragon of Drawback Hill

Sir, — Your readers might be interested to learn that I was awoken on Saturday morning by the arrival of the Nimby, the fire-breathing Dragon of Drawback Hill!

“The Nimby”, as it is affectionately known by local residents, is so called because it tries to avoid inadvertent landings in back yards.

Conceivably, it feels less than comfortable in the company of our two cats, more in kinship with the happy and contented rabbit colony that resides in the hollow of the field behind my house. The rabbits can often be seen looking out for the arrival of the Dragon, which is reputed to share its time between this magical spot and another, Watership Down, although this has never been proven because, of course, the Dragon of Drawback Hill becomes instantly invisible the moment you set eyes on it! — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

The same field inspried me to paint it

Sir, — Victoria Page is not the only person inspired to record the field behind Upper Thames Rowing Club (Standard, July 26).

I have painted views of the field several times over the last couple of years. My work is available through the Barry Keene Gallery in Thames Side, Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Steven Allender

Friday Street, Henley

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